Archive | Reliability


2:43 pm
August 10, 2016
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Heed Drive-Belt Temperature Limits

randmBy Jim Seffrin, Infraspection Institute

Temperature is frequently used to gauge the condition of motors and power-transmission equipment. The following information applies to flexible drive belts and the temperature limits for them.

Drive belts are an integral component on many types of machines. Despite the critical role they play in machine operation, V-type drive belts tend to be out of sight and out of mind until they fail. In most installations, belt temperature largely influences the life of installed V belts.

As a rule of thumb, properly applied and maintained belts should not exceed 140 F (60 C), assuming an ambient temperature of less than 110 F (43 C). Belt life can be greatly reduced by higher operating temperatures. In fact, for every 18 F-deg. (10 C-deg.) increase in belt temperature, belt life is cut in half. Keeping this in mind, we can see that the life of a drive belt operating at 176 F would be reduced by 75%.

Thermogram shows overheating V-belts. Note castoff in the control photo. Images courtesy of Skip Handlin.

Many factors contribute to high belt-operating temperature, including, but not limited to, ambient air temperature, machine design, installation, alignment, and belt tension. Overheating belts that afford line-of-sight access can be readily detected and documented with an infrared imager.

Issues associated with overheating in drive belts may not be limited to the belts themselves, however. With regard to over-tensioned drive belts, excessive force applied to belts is often transferred to bearings in the driven system. In these situations, it’s not uncommon to see bearings overheat due to the excess force created by the over-tensioned belt(s).

Thermogram shows the effects of an improperly tensioned V-belt. In this example, over-tension causes both the belt and adjacent pillow block bearing to run hot.

It should be noted that the operating temperature of overheating drive belts is not necessarily linear. A worn belt that has reached critical temperature will begin to wear at an accelerated rate, which, in turn, will cause the belt to run hotter and wear even more quickly. This vicious cycle will continue until the belt either breaks or fails to perform its intended task.

Once detected, overheating belts should be investigated for cause and proper corrective measures undertaken as soon as possible. Doing so can help prevent unscheduled downtime and may prolong belt life.

Thermal imaging offers several distinct advantages over other types of inspections for belted systems. Thermal imaging is non-contact and nondestructive. Imaging is performed remotely and requires no shutdown of inspected systems. Because infrared imagers produce real-time data, results are instantaneous and allow rapid inspection. MT

Jim Seffrin, a practicing thermographer with 30+ years of experience in the field, was appointed to the position of Director of Infraspection Institute, Burlington, NJ, in 2000. This article is based on one of his “Tip of the Week” posts on For more information on infrared applications, as well details on various upcoming training and certification opportunities, email or visit


9:00 am
August 4, 2016
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IIoT Analytics Platform

1608mtprod04pUniformance Suite is a fully integrated system of process software solutions said to turn plant data into actionable information enabling smart operations. The suite uses data analytics to allow users to capture data, visualize trends, collaborate with other users, predict and prevent equipment failures, and act to make informed business decisions. The software collects and stores all types of data for retrieval and analysis, predicts and detects events based on underlying patterns and correlations, links process metrics with business KPIs for decision making, and enables IIoT, mobility, cloud, big data, and predictive and enterprise analytics. Uniformance Insight allows users to visualize process conditions and investigate events from any web browser.
Honeywell Process Solutions


3:09 pm
July 14, 2016
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Voice From The Field: A Holistic Approach Transforms Performance

Ronald Lee uses 35 years of experience to drive improvement through reliability.

By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor

1607fvoice01pRonald Lee believes that the ability to transform your reliability and maintenance performance requires a special blend of the soft and the hard.

“Even with the best and most modern technology and equipment-monitoring capability, your overall performance and effectiveness is going to be largely dependent on the execution of the organization and its ability to adapt and embrace change,” said Lee, a 35-year veteran of manufacturing competencies, including reliability and maintenance programs for E.I DuPont.

“I understand the ‘people impact’ on performance and profitability. No matter how much money you throw at technology, at some point, you must capture the hearts and minds of the people.”

He accomplishes this by taking time to “understand their world,” he said. “It is important to solicit ideas and input from the front line. When you generate buy-in they become stakeholders, and then they own it. If they own something, you will have a hard time taking it away from them. That’s what makes a program sustainable. They will protect it and develop it.”

It’s important to apply the same rigor to managing the soft stuff as you do the hard stuff, he said.  This implies a perfect combination and strategic blend of a strong technical system (relentless waste and variability elimination, quality control and assurance), organizational structure (performance management, continuous-improvement infrastructure), and a strong focus on building a work culture that is open and collaborative (with clear purpose and intense focus).

For three-and-a-half decades, Lee worked in many aspects of the E. I. DuPont manufacturing organization. He started as a mechanical design engineer, then moved to technical services, was an area maintenance supervisor, an HR manager, the production manager, global operations manager, plant manager, and for his final 2.5 years at DuPont he was the corporate director for process safety management (Mechanical Integrity Quality Assurance), reliability, and maintenance.

In this role, Lee and his team partnered with an outside consultant to develop and pilot a holistic approach to transforming reliability and maintenance performance.

The approach was designed and executed around five key elements:

  • Hypothesis-driven thinking
  • Systematic identification of critical value levers
  • Relentless focus on impact with a rigorous prioritization of the biggest value opportunities
  • Coaching team members on use of Six Sigma, lean, change management, technical processes
  • Use of technical and non-technical tools to overcome long-living adaptive challenges, e.g., top-down communications, leadership coaching, influencing skills.

Since retiring a year ago, Lee hasn’t been idle. He is an industry advisor and international speaker and owns a consulting firm, Performance Operations Consulting LLC. He uses his expertise to help organizations design and execute the right methodology for improving asset productivity. His holistic approach includes assessment, business-case development, change-management strategy, solution design, implementation, and sustainability. 

“It’s important to give the front line a voice at the table,” he said. “You can get ideas and input through the use of lean tools, such as problem solving, Kaizen events, and value-stream mapping, to enable the front line to participate in the change required to improve the business. Ownership at all levels of the organization provides higher probability of success.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 9.56.12 AMTeamwork drives performance

Lee earned an athletic and academic scholarship to Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA, where he played college football. His football experience taught him about team building and motivating others to work toward common goals.

As the corporate director for maintenance and reliability with DuPont, Lee also was responsible for process-safety management (mechanical integrity and quality assurance). He and his organization provided direction, guidance, and competency building to help the reliability and maintenance organizations meet corporate and business goals. His responsibilities expanded across approximately 200 manufacturing sites with a footprint greater than $10 billion in assets.

Reliability, maintenance evolution

Lee said he’s seen many changes throughout his 35-year tenure. But some things stay the same.

“Not a lot has changed in terms of fundamental best practices and standards in maintenance and reliability,” Lee said. “In most cases, we evolve through cycles where we re-name an improvement initiative but basically solve and work on the same legacy issues. It’s my perspective that the key differentiator in avoiding working on the same things over and over again is to integrate the assessment and understanding of the organization’s culture.” 

Equally important, he said, is the development of solid business cases that will resonate from the front line to the executive office.

“Maintenance is usually viewed by most organizations as a cost generator or a cost burden and not as a profit center,” he said. In Lee’s experience, this is a source of frustration for many companies and maintenance teams.

“Many businesses only go to maintenance when they want to cut costs,” he said. “But the top-tier companies who really do it right know that maintenance favorably influences the company’s bottom line. Equipment that has already failed or is in failure mode can adversely impact cost, environmental, quality, product delivery, hard-hat safety, process safety, and financial performance.”

It’s not always the company’s fault that the reliability and maintenance department does not get the unwavering business support needed to achieve excellence, he stated.

“We must be more patient and diligent in showing the business reasons why we should be doing certain things in terms of maintenance and reliability,” he said. “We should show how new equipment investment will reflect on the bottom line. That’s what the top executives look at—the return on investment and the shareholder value. We must do more than just ask for a new piece of equipment. We must show how this expenditure will meet either an existing and/or emerging business need.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 9.55.52 AM
Game-changing tools

In 35 years, Lee has seen many tools introduced that have made an impact on reliability and maintenance. There are three, in particular, that he considers “game changers:”

Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma is all about eliminating waste, variability, and inflexibility in manufacturing processes. “Understand what adds value and eliminate the things that do not add value. Lean manufacturing is a great problem-solving tool that drives creativity and energy through the engagement of every level of the organization.”

Big Data. Automation and software have made a big difference in measuring real-time performance and key process variables, along with predicting equipment failures, Lee stated. “The key to utilizing Big Data is having the expertise to analyze the data and having the organizational discipline to respond in a timely fashion. The cost difference in having an orderly and controlled shutdown to address an equipment problem versus running equipment to failure is 10 times more economical. Make the maximum utilization from the advanced intelligence. Data show that only 10% of organizations fully utilize the new and advanced diagnostic tools.”

Employee Engagement. No matter how fancy and advanced the tools, you still need the right people, and they must be on board and engaged with the program. “I have examples where people have openly stated that they would try and live through the change because they knew leadership would be transitioning in two to three years.”

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 9.55.32 AMMaking an impact

At one facility, there was a struggle with ongoing equipment failures that caused excessive downtime. The business was growing and more was required of the plant. Lee worked with a team to charter a reliability-and-maintenance-improvement plan that began with a robust planning and scheduling program, defining clear roles and responsibilities, conducting equipment criticality analysis, and giving people access to the knowledge and skills they needed to be successful.

Lee’s team worked with a major consulting business to secure leadership support. “Showing the cost savings was impactful,” Lee stated. “We worked hand-in-hand with the local organization in utilizing the holistic approach and liberated significant capacity increases without the dependency of capital money.”

A cultural analysis shed light on some non-technical issues.

According to Lee, “A shift in the mindsets and behaviors made all the difference. We were able to improve communications and identify priorities. Everyone was involved in the effort and understood what was at stake. We didn’t try to fix everything. We prioritized and focused on the things that most impacted the bottom line. When you tell people what’s in it for them, they typically will align and work toward the same goal.”

For example, the mechanics were not efficient at entering the work history into the computer system. Reliability and maintenance engineers needed the history to determine trends and make predictions for preventive maintenance. But the mechanics openly shared that no one looked at or analyzed the data so they felt that entering the information was a waste of their time.

Management established and institutionalized a managing process where the data were reviewed on an established frequency and findings were shared with the mechanics, as well as with leadership. Addressing this adaptive challenge improved work-order history entry by almost 65% in less than a month.

Reliability vs. maintenance

Lee’s best piece of advice is to understand the difference between reliability and maintenance. Maintenance is what you do after it fails, he said. “How efficient you are at fixing the problem after it fails determines your maintenance effectiveness.”

Reliability is your capability to predict equipment failures and build in mitigating strategies and systems to prevent them, while better meeting business needs. “If you can detect a failure at the early stage, schedule it, and order the parts, you can save almost 10 times as much time and money as if it failed catastrophically,” he stated. “That’s the power of reliability—being able to predict—knowing the equipment and where it is in its life cycle. Reliability is the brains and the strategy to keep it from failing.” MT

Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 27 years. She has covered the industrial processing industries for nine years. If you know of a maintenance and/or reliability expert who is making a difference at their facility, please drop her an email at Ronald Lee can be reached at


7:06 pm
July 13, 2016
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Calculate the Impact of Unreliability On Sales

While most acknowledge that unreliable operation is costly at the plant level, the impact, when projected to sales, is enormous.

By Al Poling, CMRP

Generally speaking, manufacturing personnel understand the effect unreliability has on maintenance. Unreliability requires more maintenance resources and materials to repair failed equipment as well as increased maintenance capital spending caused by the need to replace equipment that has reached the end of its useful life. Running equipment to failure causes equipment to reach the end of its useful life prematurely. What many manufacturing personnel do not understand is the effect unreliability has on sales.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.35.07 PMMaintenance professionals find it difficult to garner support of corporate executives who do not understand maintenance. However, these same executives have a very clear understanding of profit and loss. If they understand the effect unreliability has on sales and, therefore, profit, they will be much more inclined to support a comprehensive reliability initiative. It might surprise many maintenance professionals to learn that there is a mutual benefit to be derived from reliability: reduced maintenance costs and increased sales and revenue.

To understand this relationship, we must examine the basic business model. All for-profit businesses operate under the same equation:  PROFIT = SALES – COST. Equipment failures affect both sides of this equation.

Calculate the True Cost of Unreliability,” an article published in the February issue of Maintenance Technology examined the impact unreliability has on maintenance costs. In this article we will examine the effect unreliability has on sales.

A hypothetical plant will be used for purposes of calculations. You can apply these calculations to your own operations to develop an order-of-magnitude estimate of the impact unreliability has on sales and profitability.

For the calculation purposes, we will use a hypothetical plant that has a plant-replacement value (PRV) of $1 billion US, with a targeted return on capital employed (ROCE) of 30%. In other words, business stakeholders expect to realize $300 million in earnings before interest and taxes on their $1 billion investment. We will also assume that this plant operates at 70% capacity due to lack of sales.

Raise sales price

Sales revenue is driven by two key levers, price and volume. The higher the sales price per unit the higher the margin, the higher the sales revenue, and the greater the profit. Additionally, the more product you sell (sales volume), the higher the sales revenue and the greater the profit. So both sales price and sales volume determine the revenue garnered by the business. Unreliability has a very profound effect on those two factors. To understand the relationship between asset reliability and sales revenue in this equation we need to examine each component in more detail.

The price of a product is largely set by whatever price the market will bear. However, the market places a premium on quality. The highest sustainable product quality can only be produced through uninterrupted manufacturing. As assets become more reliable, manufacturers are able to produce consistently higher quality product, something customers value. This isn’t new. W. Edwards Deming espoused the virtues of product consistency more than a half century ago.

If a 5% price premium can be garnered from customer willingness to pay more for higher quality product, then the subsequent increase in sales revenue is calculable. Assuming the hypothetical plant had $500 million in sales during the reporting period, the increased revenue from a higher price enabled by higher-quality product would be an additional $25 million in sales revenue.

This increase in sales revenue was made simply by reducing and/or eliminating unplanned equipment failures. No additional capital was required, resulting in a direct increase in the return on capital employed and, more importantly, on profitability.

LINE ITEM: $25 million = The increase in revenue due to higher sales price for higher quality product derived from reducing and/or eliminating unreliability.

Increase capacity

A second sales-revenue benefit derived from the elimination and/or reduction of unreliability is garnered through a lower cost per unit (CPU) of production. By operating in a failure-free mode, manufacturers are able to increase throughput. When there are fewer production interruptions caused by equipment failures, more product is made over the same period of time.

For example, if the average production rate was 80 tons per day, including time lost to equipment failures, then a natural benefit derived by reducing and/or eliminating equipment failures would be an automatic increase in capacity. If one additional hour per day of production was gained, the subsequent increase in capacity would be 4%.

A 4% increase on $525 million in annual sales revenue would be worth an additional $21 million in sales revenue. As was the case with improved product quality, this increase in capacity was derived without any additional capital investment. Companies are always striving for increased sales by whatever means, but they inevitably expect to have to invest significant capital in a new production unit or to expand an existing production unit.

LINE ITEM: $21 million = The incremental sales gained through the incremental increase in production capacity derived from reducing and/or eliminating unreliability.

Increase sales margin

Additionally, a 5% reduction in the cost per unit derived by spreading costs, e.g., operational and energy costs, over a larger volume of product could be significant. This is effectively an increase in the sales margin of the product being sold. Using the aforementioned $500 million in annual sales, the benefit would be 5% of $500 million, or an additional $25 million in profit.

LINE ITEM: $25 million = The increase in profit caused by an increased sales margin gained by reducing the cost per unit derived from reducing and/or eliminating unreliability.

Admittedly, an argument against the aforementioned gain could be made. Just because you produce more product doesn’t mean that you can sell it. But let’s examine the primary means of competition in a capitalistic environment. Companies generally compete on price and/or on quality. By reducing and/or eliminating equipment failures, both of these factors are enhanced. If you have a higher quality product to offer, your competitive position is automatically strengthened. You can increase price to increase sales revenue and/or maintain the same price and increase sales volume by offering a higher quality product for the same price.

The gains illustrated above appear to be reasonable, so we’ll assume that we could potentially increase sales price and sales volume, thereby deriving a dual benefit from the reduction and/or elimination of unreliability.

Reduce maintenance

We must also consider that, with a reduction in unreliability, maintenance costs, typically the highest fixed cost in manufacturing, are substantially lowered. Maintenance costs are distributed across all production in the form of maintenance cost per unit of production. The net result of lower maintenance cost is therefore lower cost per unit of production. In a poorly performing operation, characterized by high unreliability and subsequent high maintenance cost, the benefit derived from reducing the maintenance cost per unit alone can be profound. Benchmark studies have shown that the difference between a best performer and a worst performer, relative to maintenance cost, can be exponential. In other words, a worst performer will spend exponentially more on maintenance per unit of production than a best performer.

In the process industry, the range of performance in maintenance cost as a percent of plant-replacement value (PRV) is from less than 1% for best performers to more than 15% for worst performers. For illustration purposes we will assume a 1% reduction in maintenance cost as a percent of PRV. We will assume maintenance costs were 3% of PRV, but have been reduced to 2% of PRV by implementing a robust condition-monitoring program that facilitates corrective action prior to catastrophic failure. The net increase in profit through reduced maintenance costs based on a PRV of $1 billion would be $10 million.

LINE ITEM: $10 million = The increase in profit gained by a reduction in maintenance cost derived from reducing and/or eliminating unreliability.

Extend turnaround frequency

Although it is not universally recognized, maintenance turnarounds are caused largely by unreliability. The primary driver for turnarounds is typically pressure-equipment inspection. But what if you used non-intrusive condition monitoring such that you eliminated the need to open equipment for visual inspection?

Far too many process plants still take annual turnarounds. In this era of advanced inspection technologies, that is inexcusable. Better-performing process plants have extended the frequency of their turnarounds out to 5 to 7 yr. Let us assume that the hypothetical plant still takes annual turnarounds that cause 21 days of lost production. If the turnaround frequency was extended out to 3 yr., with only a 7-hr. increase in duration, a net annualized increase in production of approximately 12 days would be realized.

If we conservatively calculated the value of each day of production, based on current production rates and sales prices, twelve additional days of production would net an additional $18 million in sales revenue.

LINE ITEM: $18 million = The increased sales revenue gained from 12 additional days of production derived from reducing and/or eliminating unreliability caused by annual turnarounds.

Increase production

The final potential gain we will examine is the 30% of production capacity that is not currently utilized, auspiciously because of a lack of sales. Claiming that no sales were lost due to unreliability is a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as the manufacturer is not a sole source producer, additional sales were lost to competitors. If we go back to the benefits of the highest sustainable product quality and lowest sustainable unit cost of production, there would be no valid reason for not selling every unit of production. That additional 30% of production and subsequent sales is a game changer for the business. Using the original assumption of $500 million in annual sales, adding in the additional sales revenue from continuous production, and ignoring the quality premium, the net gain in sales revenue is an astounding $215 million.

LINE ITEM: $215 million = The increased sales revenue gained by running continuously, derived directly and indirectly through the reduction and/or elimination of unreliability.

There are arguably additional sales and revenue gains that can be derived through the reduction and/or elimination of unreliability. However, using the examples above we can see that a significant increase in sales and related revenue can be gained through reliable operation.

This is not an insignificant amount of sales revenue for any size organization. The business case for reliability is compelling! Although a hypothetical manufacturing site was used to illustrate the effect of unreliability on sales, the same calculations can be used to obtain an order-of-magnitude estimate of the value of lost sales due to unreliability for any plant. Plant management and corporate leaders need to understand the high cost of unreliability. All it takes is for someone to take the initiative and calculate the value for your operation. Once the true cost of unreliability has been exposed, garnering support for improved reliability should be easy! MT

Al Poling has more than 35 years of reliability and maintenance experience and is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). His consultancy, RAM Analytics, is located in Houston. For more information, contact him at

Click here to download an ebook pdf containing this article and Al Poling’s February 2016 article “Calculate the True Cost of Unreliability”.


10:03 pm
June 13, 2016
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Use Thermal Imagers To Identify Motor Trouble

Making and cataloguing thermal images part of your regular preventive maintenance routine will help determine when and what motor components are varying from their baseline.

Making and cataloguing thermal images part of your regular preventive maintenance routine will help determine when and what motor components are varying from their baseline.

Infrared cameras, also called thermal imagers, can be important tools for troubleshooting motor problems, as well as for monitoring motor conditions for preventive maintenance. Infrared images reveal a motor’s heat signature, which can tell you a lot about its condition. The condition of motors, in turn, can play an important role in keeping plants up and running and their operating costs down.

According to experts at Fluke Corp., Everett, WA, here are some tips for scanning motors and drives with thermal imagers:

Build motor heat-signature profiles.
Capture good quality infrared images when the motors are running under normal operating conditions. That gives you baseline measurements of component temperatures. Make infrared images of all of the critical components, including motor, shaft coupling, motor and shaft bearings, and the gearbox. Note that when working with low electrical loads, the indications of a problem can be subtle. As a load increases, the temperature will increase. If a problem exists, expect greater temperature differences at higher loads.

Note nameplate information and hot spots.
A motor’s normal operating temperature should be listed on the nameplate. An infrared camera cannot see the inside of the motor, but the exterior surface temperature is an indicator of the internal temperature. If a motor is overheating, the windings will rapidly deteriorate. Every 50-deg. F increase in a motor’s windings, above the designed operating temperature, cuts the winding life by 50%, even if the overheating is only temporary. If a temperature reading in the middle of a motor housing comes up abnormally high, an IR image of the motor can tell you where the high temperature is coming from, i.e., windings, bearings, or coupling. If a coupling is running warm it is an indicator of misalignment.

Know the three primary causes of abnormal thermal patterns.

  • High-resistance contact surface, either a connection or a switch contact, often appears warmest at the spot of high resistance.
  • Load imbalances can appear equally warm throughout the phase or part of the circuit that is undersized/overloaded. Harmonic imbalances create a similar pattern. If the entire conductor is warm, it could be undersized or overloaded. Check the rating and the actual load to determine the cause.
  • Failed components typically look cooler than those that are functioning normally. The most common example is probably a blown fuse. In a motor circuit, this can result in a single-phase condition and the possibility of costly damage to the motor.

Create regular inspection routes and compare images.
It is a best practice to create a regular inspection regimen that includes making thermal images of all critical motor/drive combinations. Ideally, these images are made under identical operating conditions to have apples-to-apples comparisons. Comparing current state images with baseline images can help you determine whether a hotspot is unusual and also help you verify if any repairs undertaken were successful. A thermal imager can easily transfer images into software for cataloguing. Sharing can be invaluable in this effort. MT

For more information on thermal-imaging best practices, visit


9:54 pm
June 13, 2016
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Five IT Mistakes That Make You Vulnerable

USB Flash Drive extremely close up. Macro image.

Data transferred by employees using flash drives can be a weak link in your network security efforts.

Two topics dominated the recently held Hannover MESSE trade show (April 24 to 28, 2016, Hannover, Germany). The topic promoted by the show organizers was Industry 4.0/Internet of Things technology. The other topic that stood out was cyber security, primarily because it’s hard to use Industry 4.0 technology and not rely on a ton of data, the transfer of which makes manufacturing systems vulnerable to outside intrusions.

The one cyber-security-related question that has remained with me since the show is, What are the most common mistakes/assumptions companies make that result in system vulnerability? For answers to that question, I turned to Vincent Turmel, senior cyber-security consultant with Siemens Plant Security Services, Digital Factory U.S. Turmel identified the following five assumptions that companies make when it comes to the vulnerability of their automation and control systems.

—Gary L. Parr, editorial director

Our systems are air-gapped.
Most often, even systems assumed to be isolated from the Internet are somehow connected to the business network. Business networks are typically connected to the Internet. This often comes as a surprise to people in charge of those systems and commonly results from pressure to generate real time KPIs and allow remote monitoring/maintenance of key equipment.

A careful review of key manufacturing functions will usually reveal where data are being exchanged between manufacturing systems. An on-site industrial security assessment will also discover connections to the business level (or even directly to the Internet, in the worst cases), forgotten modems, and other gateways to outside systems, such as an engineer loading data onto an engineering station by using a USB device, allowing the possibility of malware infection.

Our company is not a target.
Most companies have been victims of cyber incidents, even if not intentionally targeted. Computer worms and viruses are rarely aimed at your company but can still seriously damage your business. Phishing attacks, focused on social media, can enter your company systems through employee private emails and by using company computers to browse websites. Once in, it’s rarely a challenge for malware to propagate throughout a network. A holistic approach to cybersecurity, based on the IEC 62243 Defense in Depth concept, is the best strategy to deal with all potential threats.

We have technical controls in place.
Many companies believe that they have adequate security in place since they use firewalls, have networks segmented using VLANs, and have antivirus software on their computers. Technical controls, such as these, are vital. However, a Defense in Depth approach is critical, ensuring multiple measures that involve people, processes, and technology. Technical controls need to be supplemented by policies and processes that make clear what is an appropriate use of systems and expected user behavior, particularly for the use of removable memory-storage devices.

IT is responsible for cyber security.
Many users assume that it is the responsibility of the IT department to protect all company systems. IT can help deploy technical solutions and create generic policies and processes. However, some areas, the shop floor for example, may need to take exception to IT policies that are not applicable in an environment where rebooting a server monthly to apply software patches is not possible due to 24/7/365 operations. Applying any patches to PCs running critical applications requires elaborate vendor test and approval. Otherwise, such changes might lead to incompatibility and, in worst-case scenarios, to a system stop.

Real time visibility for my security ‘risks’ is not needed.
The threat landscape is changing rapidly and 100% security does not exist. Preventive measures (technical controls, people awareness, and procedures) are key, but are not sufficient. Being able to detect when you have not been able to prevent an intrusion or incident is also very important but is rarely deployed in plant-floor systems. Monitoring endpoints, networks, and firewalls, with the help of a security information and event management (SIEM) system, should be deployed to help recognize the signs of a security incident so that it can be promptly identified and mitigated before significant damage is done. MT

For more information about the Siemens Digital Factory, click here. The Siemens U.S. headquarters are located in Buffalo Grove, IL.


7:34 pm
June 13, 2016
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Upgrading Legacy Power Systems

Upgrading to new equipment requires careful analysis and planning to avoid extended downtime.

Upgrading to new equipment requires careful analysis and planning to avoid extended downtime.

A Q & A with Danita Knox, GE Energy Connections.

When’s the best time to upgrade a power system? According to Danita Knox of GE Energy Connections, Atlanta, it can vary. Consider the following situations as ideal opportunities:

  • if a facility had or is planning a significant expansion that might affect overall power-system loading
  • if a recent arc-flash study revealed significant incident levels or danger of exposure for electrical workers or operators
  • if personnel are having difficulty locating replacement and spare parts for the site’s electrical system
  • if plant personnel desire better monitoring of the overall power system.

Once the decision has been made to move forward on an upgrade, what’s next? We asked Knox for some insight into what facilities can do to make these projects go smoothly.

MT: What trends in power-system upgrades are you seeing among older installations?

Knox: One trend involves customers replacing older electromechanical relays, meters, and trip units with newer digital “smart” equivalents. This provides a single, multi-function device that incorporates communications (local and network), event logging, and monitoring (graphical screens and remotely using web tools). Critical applications include upgrading to smart switchgear offerings that feature built-in monitoring, diagnostics, redundancy, and remote-control capabilities.

Facilities are also adding devices to their power systems that help locate workers further away from the equipment they operate. This is done, in some cases, by adding remote racking devices to existing breakers or using robot-type devices to operate equipment from a safe distance. We’re seeing more sites updating old fused devices, such as a load interrupter switch, with faster-operating vacuum breakers and relay equivalents that reduce arc-flash incident levels.

Finally, with limited budgets for large capital projects in many plants, it’s essential for them to find ways to extend the life of their existing equipment. To that end, facilities are often looking at retrofit options.

MT: What tips do you have for sites that are embarking on a power system upgrade?

Knox: Ideally, it helps to start with a comprehensive arc-flash study. This can provide remediation suggestions on how to reduce arc-flash exposure levels and improve personnel and equipment safety. To begin an arc flash study, an operation needs an accurate schematic or diagram of the facility. Plant personnel familiar with the electrical system can usually collect the information needed to build this diagram. An accurate schematic also provides critical information that can be a great tool to develop safe and proper LOTO (lock-out/tag-out) practices.

With a thorough arc-flash study, plant operators can then evaluate multiple options that help define steps to start upgrading a power system. Upgrade projects can be prioritized into smaller projects, depending on employee exposure, process needs, available outage periods and budget constraints.

If you’re going to replace old gear with new equipment, such as this ground and test device for Magne-Blast switchgear, be sure to test all critical components prior to the outage. Photo: GE

If you’re going to replace old gear with new equipment, such as this ground and test device for Magne-Blast switchgear, be sure to test all critical components prior to the outage. Photo: GE

MT: To get management buy-in, what’s the best way to estimate the return on investment (ROI) and benefits of an upgrade?

Knox: Often the need to upgrade is based on some failure or electrical incident that has caused downtime, equipment damage, or, worst-case scenario, employee injury.

When you look at the cost associated with downtime and/or injury, it’s fairly easy to calculate ROI if the project is done in a phased approach. Some trip unit, relay, and breaker upgrades can be done under the threshold of a maintenance budget.

MT: Are there any budget-friendly ways to upgrade a legacy system?

Knox: Yes, there are. It’s important to look at upgrade options that solve the most problems with minimal disruption to plant operations and equipment.

Consider, for example, if a single upstream breaker/relay combination in the facility can reduce arc-flash exposure for downstream feeder breakers without upgrading each breaker. Does the site have unused spare breakers that can be rotated out with a local service shop for upgrades that can later be installed during a short outage?

If a plant is updating old relays and meters, it should get new doors with new components prewired. This allows a shorter outage while equipment is being replaced. Also, “replacing the guts” in the existing compartment in a field outage can help reduce upgrade costs, assuming the new equipment has been pre-determined to fit the compartment and it can be easily wired. MT

Danita Knox is senior product manager for Power Delivery Services within GE Energy Connections, headquartered in Atlanta.

Steps to a Successful Power-System Upgrade

According to GE’s Danita Knox, as a site prepares for a power-system upgrade, it’s important to identify and select a reputable vendor that’s experienced, trained, and knowledgeable in designing this type of complex project. A power-system upgrade includes these steps:

  • Budgeting for hardware, software, and labor.
  • Development of a project schedule and careful outage planning for the upgrade.
  • Design of the system and procurement of all components prior to the outage.
  • Labor and logistics planning for the outage to ensure that work is completed on time.
  • Testing of all critical components prior to the outage.
  • Failure mode and effects analysis to plan for challenges during the outage and prepare solutions or workarounds.
  • Site safety and work policy that includes LOTO (lock-out/tag-out) training and documentation.

“During the upgrade,” Knox said, “an experienced project manager with a background in power systems is indispensable. Many facilities operate continuously with infrequent planned outages. Careful planning and execution is required to maximize work and re-energize systems in a timely manner.”

Knox advises creating a detailed schedule and work procedures early on, including planning types of labor and required skill-sets and procuring all materials well in advance. “Regarding procurement,” she cautioned, “be careful to consider smaller items, such as personal protective equipment and installation components. If these small details are missed in outage planning, they can create schedule slippage, safety risks, or technical errors while limiting the amount of work accomplished.”